Ann Azzopardi – Principal Sustainability Consultant
Ann has worked on some of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects, including the $2.6-billion Sydney Gateway project and the $2.8-billion Sydney Metro City & Southwest tunnelling works. Working as Project Sustainability Manager on the latter, Ann led the team to win the ‘ISC Outstanding Achievement in Infrastructure Sustainability Award’ in 2019. She was also a finalist in the ‘Emerging Leader for 2022’ category at the recent Infrastructure Sustainability Council Gala Awards.
Graduating with honours in environmental science from the University of Sydney, Ann has held positions as an Environmental Scientist at Sydney Water and Sustainability Manager at John Holland. She is also an Infrastructure Sustainability Accredited Professional and a Certified Lead Auditor in Environmental Management Systems.
As Principal Sustainability Consultant at WolfPeak, Ann is currently providing sustainability support to several major projects, including assisting John Holland on the $400-million Botany Rail Duplication.
What is your role at WolfPeak?
I lead the sustainability branch of WolfPeak and I am responsible for business development within this area. At present, we mainly work with clients in the infrastructure construction space. This can involve being embedded within our client’s project team, working with them to help achieve their sustainability objectives and targets, or providing independent sustainability review and auditing services. Our aim is to ensure sustainability initiatives are being incorporated into the project early during design, and that systems are in place to monitor their implementation during construction.
We’re particularly experienced in preparing Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) Ratings and have worked with our clients to deliver significant sustainability outcomes through this process. We also have experience in the sustainable buildings space and implementation of the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) rating system.
What do you love most about your job?
Sustainability is all-encompassing, which makes it really fulfilling. Not only is it about the environment, but also society and the economic and governance structures we exist within. This provides opportunities to make a positive difference on a number of different levels for people and the planet.
It also means I need to understand all the different aspects of a project — from engineering design to procurement, and stakeholder engagement to environmental management. This gives me the opportunity to meet and work with many different people across all areas of the organisations we work with, which I find really interesting and rewarding.
What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
Working in the sustainability space can require you to be a Jack of all trades, which is challenging at times. For example, I’m not an engineer, so I need to rely on subject matter experts within the client organisation to provide information in a way that I can use it for the deliverables I need to produce. That can be tricky when everyone is busy and especially if sustainability isn’t viewed as a priority. I’ve found that the solution is to build strong connections with key people on projects and to find your champions that will help promote and achieve sustainability targets.
The importance of sustainability is growing though, especially with increased shareholder pressure for companies to do better in this space. Increased attention around the effects of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions is getting companies to think about the long-term impacts of their operations and projects. This has filtered down through organisations and I’m seeing its influence at the Project level. For example, one of the Project Directors I’m currently working with is really engaged with me and the work we’re doing, encouraging the implementation of initiatives that might not have received the same level of support in the past.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your current role?
This role has taught me the value of having a strong network and collaborative working relationships with a wide range of people. Working successfully in the sustainability industry isn’t possible without this. My first priority when starting work on a new project is to get to know the broader team and figure out who will be sustainability champions in the different functional areas. These are people on the team who have a special interest in sustainability and are likely to get behind key initiatives.
Engagement and connection are so critical. This makes sense when you think about sustainability as a principle hinging on strong connections, with our fellow humans and the environment we live in. That’s essentially drives our need and desire to create a better world for the future.
What’s the best thing about working at WolfPeak?
We are a really like-minded group in terms of what we value, how we approach our work, and our desires to make a positive impact on the world. We’re also very different in a lot of ways, which is wonderful as we get to learn a lot from each other. And having that strong undercurrent of aligned values has created a really empathetic, caring and open culture.
How does this open culture support high performance?
The culture that’s been fostered at WolfPeak provides the space and supportive environment needed to grow ideas, think innovatively, explore different opportunities, and speak up when you need help. All of this translates to high performance as it allows for out of the box thinking, collaboration, and constant growth.
You were recognised as an ‘Emerging Leader for 2022’ at the Infrastructure Sustainability Council Gala Awards. What is your leadership style?
I’ve always approached leadership from a place of empathy and understanding. I put my team and the people I work with first and try to understand how I can best support them and foster their growth. I like to get in the trenches with the people I work with and make them feel heard, understood and supported. If the people working alongside me are doing well and feeling happy and fulfilled, that translates to good business.
What are your career goals?
I want to continue to build the sustainability branch of WolfPeak and expand the work we do beyond infrastructure sustainability.
Which areas/industries would you like to expand into?
This includes working with a range of organisations to support achievement of their corporate social responsibility strategies and targets, and working with clients in the sustainable buildings space.
I also want to make sure we foster diverse teams and bring onboard people with different skill sets and experiences. Working in the construction industry, it’s also really important to me that we support women and girls entering the industry and becoming leaders. Long term, I’d love to help develop and grow a diverse group of leading sustainability professionals. That would be very rewarding.